New Delhi: India will select either a Sanskrit or a Bengali name for its planetary system comprising an exoplanet and its host star located 340 light years away from Earth.
An exoplanet is defined as any planet outside the solar system.
Earlier this year, as part of its centenary celebrations, Paris-based International Astronomical Union (IAU) gave various countries a chance to name one planetary system comprising an exoplanet and its host star.
Accordingly, the Astronomical Society of India (ASI) had announced a contest for school and college students, asking them to send suggestions.
The ASI has now shortlisted five names each for the exoplanet and the star from over 1,600 suggestions it received.
The five shortlisted names for the star are — Anāhata, meaning ‘always present/unhurt’ (Sanskrit), Bibhā: After Dr Bibha Chowdhuri (Bengali), Rashmirathi, meaning ‘rider of the Sun’s chariot’ (Sanskrit), Suteja, meaning ‘bright’ (Sanskrit), and Vibhās, meaning ‘special light’ (Sanskrit).
Dr Bibha Chowdhuri was an Indian physicist who worked on particle physics and cosmic rays.
The shortlisted names for the exoplanet are — Abhrakāsin, meaning ‘sheltered in clouds’ (Sanskrit), Āleyā, meaning ‘will-o’-the-wisp’ (Bengali), Santamas, meaning ‘clouded’ (Sanskrit), Taptabrihas, meaning ‘hot Jupiter’ (Sanskrit), and Turanga, meaning ‘divine horse’ (Sanskrit).
The ASI has now asked Indians to vote for their favourite names on this website. The voting will remain open until 1 November.
All 10 proposers of the shortlisted names will receive a certificate from the ASI in a ceremony to be held during its next Annual meeting at IISER, Tirupati, in February next year.
Insisting on choosing ‘Indian names’ for the country’s designated planetary system, the ASI had, in fact, extended the deadline for the students to submit their suggestions as they were initially receiving mostly English, Greek or Latin names.
Global results to be announced in December
The IAU is the authority responsible for assigning official designations and names to celestial bodies.
After scanning through a range of confirmed exoplanets and their host stars, the IAU100 NameExoWorlds Steering Committee has assigned the planetary system with the star HD 86081 to India.
The HD 86081 is slightly hotter, larger and older than Sun. The star has a surface temperature of 6028 K — giving it a yellowish colour. It is easily visible through binoculars and small telescopes.
Its exoplanet — HD 86081 b — orbits around the star. The exoplanet appears to be similar to Jupiter in size and mass, but orbits very close to its star. It is expected that this planet will have very high temperature. The star is located in the constellation of Sextans and visible in Indian skies.
After the vote is done, the final set of names will be sent to the IAU for consideration. After validation by the IAU100 NameExoWorlds Steering Committee, the global results will be announced in December this year.
The winning names will be used in parallel with the existing scientific nomenclature for the objects, with due credit to the persons that proposed them.
To ensure a fair process of naming these two celestial bodies, a senior level national committee was specially created by the Indian IAU National Outreach Coordinator (IAU NOC). The national committee had organised this competition in association with the ASI.